Divine extinction, p.3
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       Divine Extinction, p.3
 

           Hylton Smith
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“We are of one mind, which deals in the Truth. Other faiths demand belief before acceptance, which can only be truly delivered after death. There is considerable and growing disaffection with this kind of spiritual bargain. The Truth is inescapably enshrined in the laws of physics with respect to our existence. If we breathe poisonous gas or touch high voltage cable, we will die. We are also dying from the moment we are born. There are ways in which medical science can prolong this period, not all of which seem to be without consequence. We believe that people should always have access to truth in these matters, and in that spirit they are elevated to the Truth. In all other faiths the Great One is never accountable for disaster, but always credited with wonder. Civilisation is a word whose definition is rooted in progress, yet since mankind became agrarian and abandoned the nomadic life we have relentlessly diluted ‘society’ and corrupted the natural world on which we depend. We must ask ourselves – ‘Is society not supposed to be one of the benefits of civilisation?’ We also owe it to ourselves to question how this rape of the planet will end; it surely was not in the grand design at the beginning? Our philosophy is simple. The great one will not save us from ourselves. We must embrace the Truth and deal with its laws as commandments; we must begin to pay off the mortgage for the civilisation we have taken out over the centuries. The species is under threat from itself. The more our flock grows – the greater the Light of our Circle – and the more we can welcome those who wish to deliver change. We do not discriminate between or deny anyone’s religious leanings. The two faiths do not have to be mutually exclusive. We do however stress that ours will be judged within our lifetime and that of our grandchildren. Finally, I would urge you to consider that no matter how unpleasant it may be, the Truth is simple, it is the bending of it to comply with objectives of control which cloud the sky.” Simone was aware of another mini-blackout, but only just. He wasn’t aware of why he was no longer confused with any aspect of the last twenty-four hours.

  “I’m ready to take the third test.”

  A third chamber was windowless and devoid of light. He was led to an enclosure and then halted and given the familiar headset. Before he could articulate the question, he was in receipt of the answer via the headset. “The Truth requires that you are absolutely certain of your desire to continue. The test will be explained and if you decide to withdraw you must leave and never return. If you elect to continue the test must be completed. The most common obstacle within any faith has always been fear of the unknown. It may however also be considered as the foundation for believing – the ‘I have nothing to lose syndrome.’ We must all clear this hurdle in one way or another. All members of the Circle of Light need to convince themselves through this test. We all seek to know what, if anything comes after death. If you proceed to the enclosure we will take you there. You will be put into gradual stasis and then briefly experience the state of being clinically dead before being revived. This will potentially allow you to glimpse the alternative to being alive, or conclude like many of us that there is nothing to glimpse. At that point you may accept or decline the final ceremony to membership. Should you declare you have indeed glimpsed evidence to support another faith you will be encouraged to return to the life you already have. If however you still wish to join with us, you may pledge acceptance of the need to subordinate this faith to that of the Circle of Light. It is not necessary to renounce the other faith, but it may limit your involvement in certain activities if conflicting priorities develop. In such circumstances, you may be offered a fourth test, which would result in a definite pass or fail judgement. You must now ask any final questions you may have before proceeding to the enclosure or the exit to the building.”

  Simone was not unduly shaken by the prospect of ‘momentary death’ but did want to know if there were instances of failure to revive any subjects.

  “No, we had to be certain of this by developing the technique with applicants who had nothing to lose, as they were terminally ill. They were all restored to their former condition. In almost all cases the experience helped them face their already known fate. Some of them are still with us.”

  When Simone elected to proceed he felt as if he was actually two people, and was being advised by both. With every challenge by his logical self, the thirst to experience a return from the dead actually increased. His niggling apprehension was like the morning fog which miraculously sublimed to total clarity. He entered the enclosure and was positioned on a gurney. The blackness looked and felt solid. He was unable to see the four medical staff, all of whom had a distinct role in his journey to the Truth. The hypnotic voice of the person who he had never met helped his relaxation and prepared him for the anaesthetic delivery. As he went under, his last recollection was one of wondering why he did not pursue the question of what happens when the Circle of Light has all the members it seeks. His revival was even more pleasant than his ‘departure’. Still immersed in darkness he felt for the headset and spoke slowly. “Where am I?”

  The same familiar voice responded. “You are now returned to us, friend. You will soon recall your agreement to experience clinical death. We await your observations.” Simone asked how long he had been ‘under’.

  “It is four days since the first anaesthetic. The stages of stasis were deepened over two days and the opportunity you had to glimpse the ‘other side’ was just under one minute. Your revival from stasis was also two days, reflecting the same metabolic change as your entry to the condition. If you need rest, take all the time you want to evaluate your journey.”

  Two hours later Simone felt that he wasn’t going to recall any more than he already had and asked to speak to the ‘voice’. He was very surprised when a figure entered the enclosure and the place abruptly switched from total, tactile blackness to soft illumination in the form of a circle of light emanating from the ceiling. The voice and the face were now connected. “Tell us of your journey - in your own time.”

  Simone stared for some time at the individual before uttering a word. The physical appearance seemed mismatched with the compelling voice. He had rather weak features and yet managed to invoke a shiver of pure evil in the observer. Simone dismissed this as part of his recovery and spoke at last. “I feel nothing. It was reminiscent of a childhood operation I had for removal of my tonsils, but without the discovery of soreness. I’m still a little light-headed, but that’s all.”

  The question came quickly. “We are pleased. How does this make you feel about the Circle of Light?”

  Simone was alert enough to begin asking practical questions, such as how members would function and obtain the essentials of life. He was assured that he needn’t concern himself over minutiae; the work would be rewarding in every respect. He was also comforted with the statement that he wouldn’t be required to change his existing commitments unless or until he was ready. “This is a faith and will help you in your life plans. If you felt the desire at some time to spend more time with us, for example in bringing others to the Circle, then you would be further assessed with that task in mind.”

  Simone got the feeling that he should go away and give this serious thought. “I can say I am intrigued, and will join the Circle of Light. My family is steeped in the Roman Catholic faith, but I have never been convinced of its merits. So as not to annoy my father I’ve regularly attended church, but not with the family, at weekends. I like the solitude of the place, especially if there is nobody else there. It affords me space to drop out of the bustle and demands of everyday life, and therefore enjoy quality thinking time. I now feel that the Circle of Light will give me this without the hypocrisy.”

  A slow smile passed over the face of the figure in front of him and the voice reflected the mutual joy in Simone’s decision to join. “Excellent. May I offer you my congratulations and this token of preliminary membership?” As he approached to slip the chain of Truth around Alberto Simone’s neck, the subject lowered his head to receive the honour. In an instant of perfectly rehearsed timing, another figure
concealed in the peripheral darkness lowered a wire noose over the subject and yanked him toward the circle on the ceiling. There was no cry or struggle as the wire slowly gnawed through Simone’s neck. It didn’t matter to those observing whether his final seconds were defined by asphyxiation or severance of his head from his body. They merely celebrated a successful experiment. Instructions were left with the noose-operator to take the corpse to a fourth chamber, through an internal door and dispose of it in the furnace. Part of the building was a legitimate pet crematorium. Simone’s ashes would be blended with some of the normal clients and scattered on the borders by the skeletal old man on one of his voluntary shifts.

  Chapter 3

  When the group convened to assess the Simone experiment, Zara prefaced the discussion by informing everyone that he was expecting an update from Naomi Boniface, on her recommendation, that a change may be beneficial for the third test. This gave an additional edge to what felt like circling vultures picking on the carrion of the pre-combusted Simone.

  Zara opened the assessment by asking his chief technical guru, Roland Hernandez, if he was satisfied with the effectiveness of the subliminal input sequences which helped coerce the subject to be relaxed, while leading up to the short, temporary termination. Hernandez was already nervous about the reply he had scripted, even before the prospect of hearing Naomi Boniface lobbying for change. “I’m generally happy with the outcome, but I want much better control of the ramp rate and the interval recommendations. I feel that this requires more work on the equipment, in order to achieve optimum effect. I realise this is disappointing; however, we must bear in mind that this branch of the technology originated in the first decade of this century. From its introduction, it has undergone honing and maximisation of the concept, and this leaves us some way short of certainty with the wide spread of intellect we will encounter. I have to say there will be a delay as we need a paradigm shift in capability.”

  He was about to add additional padding as justification of more development time when he was cut off by the fury of Zara’s response. “Hernandez, you had better state right now how much delay we are facing, before I ask Boniface to outline her proposal, which may well affect the subject differently, with or without over-reliance on your gadgetry.” Hernandez considered this threat to his position carefully before answering, and luckily hit a note which placated Zara a little.

  “Snr. Zara, I must ask you to verify what I’m about to say with Osvaldo Martinez – this was before you joined us, and I stated that this possibility was always there. It is also in the minutes of one of the early meetings, that I suggested a thorough re-think of the then current state of the art. He acknowledged this, but authorised me to continue with implementation, in order to test my assertion. I accepted this, just as he accepted the possible need for a re-design if results were not reliable enough.”

  Zara was really rather pleased that he had brought this up, as it had served as confirmation that no one suspected he was actually Martinez. He did also recall the conversation to which Hernandez referred. However, he now wanted to inject new urgency. “Very well, I’ll take what you say on trust. Please get on with outlining the delay envisaged and what it will achieve.” Hernandez was playing from a strong technical hand, but knew that poker was also rooted in bluffing, or at least embroidery of what was already known.

  “We can all recall the first forays into this technology, which were nothing more than a rather simple drawdown of electro-encephalograph design. These crude units were based on a single electrode which measured small electrical neural impulses generated by thought or mental state. Phase two saw additional electrodes into double figures and allowed some personalisation or calibration to the individual subject. Up to that point there was no real feedback to the brain other than visual evaluation. The development of effective devices to deliver non-visual feedback took more than a decade. However, as with many advances, there were side-effects. Such concerns were seizures and minor shutdown bouts. Overcoming this also proved to be a lengthy process, when taking into account many variations within the subjects. It was akin to allergies, where substances can have no effect, death and anything between. That is where we found our starting point and although we have minimised the more serious effects, the trade-off is in personalisation or sculpturing the correct balance for the individual. We must change from evolution of technology to revolutionary design of both hardware and software. First, we require complex hardware filters with independent adjustment of many parameters. The software, which must then relate the individual’s profile to specified limits in the hardware output, is of utmost importance. The question of time has been tabled and I cannot see this being prototyped in less than a year. I know this isn’t very helpful, but it is absolutely necessary if we are to avoid testing every subject from a central laboratory. For our plan to succeed we are heavily dependent on de-centralised, field testing capability; anything else would attract unwanted attention.” The import of this was both annoying and logical to Zara.

  “I will judge this proposal when I have heard the update from Naomi Boniface. We will hear that now.”

  She rose nervously to her feet, cleared her throat and handed out copies of her report. The sheer depth of her research was in stark contrast to the off-the-cuff gambit of Hernandez. The tension ratcheted up a notch. There were many references to experiments, performed by different eminent scientists which supported her assertion that intellect was less reliable than emotional pattern when trying to influence the conclusions of subjects with regard to un-provable propositions. High intellect was more than four times more likely to respond to logic, statistical probability and weighted evidence than rigid emotional profile. It was cast in the uncertainty theorem; lower levels of intellect had to rely heavily on ‘transferred belief’. The studies covered many ratios of intellect to emotional stability. “I realise that none of these studies specifically cover our exact process, but for the third test I’m utterly confident that we will have a lower level of conversion if we don’t at least include emotional profiling in our algorithms. Just because intellect is easier to quantify doesn’t make it a better yardstick. I would respectfully ask you all to take time to digest the scope of this research before tendering a conclusion on my proposal.” Zara thanked her and surprised everyone by endorsing Hernandez’ request, as long as it catered for the possible inclusion of the Boniface proposal.

  *

  Zara had always wanted to tour Russia. While he had been contemplating the implications of the enforced delay to the campaign launch, he had read an article in an Iberian newspaper. It was tucked away, as column filler, at the foot of page seventeen, and amongst the eccentric stories of the day. It was treated as a legitimate target for ridicule by the journalist. Zara was amused at first, but then considered another aspect of the story. He was going to need a distraction in order to avoid meltdown of his patience during the technical delay. The article referred to a geologist whose ancestry included a great-grandfather and his family, who had lived on the very edge of the Tunguska fallout zone. Alexei Stepanov claimed that this long-deceased relative, Roman Kondarenko, had been working in Kiev when the disaster occurred. He had returned home to find many of his family had been terminated by secondary collateral damage of the impact. Roman’s brother and his wife had survived despite their home collapsing completely. Fortunately, they had been alerted to the fireball in the sky by a neighbour, and had ventured outside to witness the harbinger of death. They were amongst a group of onlookers who had always disputed the ‘official’ reports of the sequence of events. Despite the absolute consistency in the account given by these people, the authorities in Russia at the time dismissed it as lacking in feasibility. The scientists charged with advising the government as to the cause and aftermath were adamant that the pocket of survivors at this location had suffered distortion of their vision, due to refraction of the medium through which the immense explosive force was propagated.

  All subsequent studi
es and evidence gathered, failed to produce convergence on exactly what happened. The current recessionary situation in Russia had effectively branded Tunguska research as a waste of essential resource. Although many foreign government and individual applications were received, the policy had been modified to prohibit such investigations. It was therefore to become the province of extremely rich Russian nationals, and apparently there were none with any interest in such an indulgent appropriation of funds. Zara was particularly drawn to the claim by Stepanov, that his great-grandfather’s brother and others had seen the detonation of the ‘object’, which inflicted the horror in the atmosphere and on the ground. They had also seen a second, smaller bright object leave the parent just prior to the devastation. They had also described the direction of travel and possible location of impact of this ‘Tunguska Minor’. This impact occurred before the main devastation was felt by the observers; otherwise they would not have seen it. Andrei Stepanov had only inherited this account from his father eight years ago, and had been met with scepticism at every attempt to create interest. He had then changed tactics. He obtained permission to personally investigate the claims. The government didn’t care whose money was used, as long as it was a Russian who could lay claim to any success, but then acknowledge any accrued artefacts or knowledge was the property of the state. Zara authorised one of his two trusted aides to speak with Stepanov, and if his checklist proved interesting, bring him to a remote venue for face-to-face discussions.

  *

  Ricardo Pierze was already burning a lot of personal and departmental energy in scanning the entire planet for any kind of aberrational behaviour. It was adversely affecting other important security programmes, and he knew he could expect more regular grilling from President Sanchez. He had not however anticipated what actually came over the transom. “Ricardo, we often have to deliver good news and bad news together, but they are usually separate items. This latest report embodies both in the same sentence. Orient has helped diplomatic relations by declaring further trust, advocating more cooperation, especially now that additional colonisation of the Moon is considered to be futile.” Pierze was so focussed on his own maze of operations that he unwittingly transmitted indifference.

 
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